Location: Sabahiya a suburb of Kuwait City, Kuwait, Middle East. The title to this article is click bait. I am not immune to using click bait from time to time. But the video is remarkable. It’s on Twitter and it shows a Kuwaiti woman capturing and carrying a subadult lion down the street at night. As she carries the lion it wriggles and roars as it wants to be set free. ‘Subadult’ refers to a young lion approaching adulthood.
This is an escaped pet lion despite a ban on pet lions, as I understand it, in the Middle East. Exotic pets like lions are popular in Kuwait I’m told. And you will find these large wild cat species popular as pets in other middle eastern countries. It’s tragic really.
Owning an exotic wild animal in Kuwait is illegal but for those with ‘wasta’ (personal connections and influence), keeping a wild animal as a pet is easily arranged. Once the owner tires of them, these animals are often killed.Animal Survival International
And I expect this lion to have been declawed. A truly brutal operation. I don’t know. I am speculating but that is the kind of thing these irresponsible people do. I also expect the lion to have been acquired as a small cub. The cub becomes an adult and totally unmanageable.
These people demonstrate a complete disregard for conservation, for the welfare of animals in general and specifically these large cat species which require a specialist diet and cannot be kept as pets adequately unless the owner is very skilled and has specialist and large facilities in order to accommodate the animal.
They invariably don’t on all counts. Often the animal suffers and becomes ill. This is what Carole Baskin found when she was running Big Cat Rescue. She was rescuing big cats from private zoo owners who abused the animals. I have used the past tense because she is selling or has sold For Cat Rescue because her work is done after she campaigned successfully for the introduction of the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
I am digressing. But there is a desire among wealthy people to possess exotic animals as pets. It is unhealthy. It is a misconceived desire. It is self-indulgent. It is stupid. It is against all that we hold dear in terms of wildlife conservation and in having a decent relationship with nature and the planet generally.
The rise of lions as pets across the Middle East is because they are a status symbol. TikTok and other social media outlets are riddled with videos of lions and cheetahs as pets. In 2021, the online news media website ARAB NEWS reported that there was a 10-year-old child taking a pet cheetah for a stroll down the street but struggling to manage it. The cheetah’s owner, presumably her father, captured a video of his daughter and shared it online in defiance of National Centre for Wildlife warnings against keeping wild animals as pets.
The authority refuse to provide licences for ownership of exotic pets and has warned people that keeping such pets can result in a 10-year prison term and fines up to $7.9 million. This doesn’t seem to deter people. Saudis seem to ignore the warnings and defy the orders.
It is impossible to obtain a licence to own a predator in Saudi. I presume that they’re not referring to domestic cats which are of course predators! As are dogs. A Saudi activist and volunteer with animal rescue organisations said that wild animals belong in the wild. Correct.
It appears that the desire for status and the desire to possess something exotic overrides common sense among some people in the Middle East.
Some more articles on exotic pets:
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